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Students still struggling with college readiness, ACT report reveals

ACT results in Maryland

In Maryland, 21 percent of the 2012 graduating class took the ACT, according to the report—up 24.2 percent from 2008. Twenty-three percent of students taking the test did not meet any of the college readiness benchmarks, while 33 percent met all four benchmarks. The percentage of students in the state who have met all the benchmarks has risen just four percentage points from 2008 and two parentage points from last year.

“ACT scores in Maryland are flat, a situation similar to that of the rest of the nation,” said Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education. ” Maryland’s composite score is tied for 14th in the nation and is well above the national average. Scores have held steady in the state despite a dramatic increase in the number of Maryland students taking the test.”

ACT’s empirically derived College Readiness Benchmarks are based on actual grades earned in college by ACT-tested students. They specify the minimum score needed on each of the four ACT subject tests to indicate that a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in that subject area. ACT continually updates its research to ensure that the benchmarks are reflective of college success.

College readiness levels remain particularly low among African American and Hispanic students nationally. None of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks were met by more than half of students in those racial/ethnic groups. In contrast, the majority of Asian American and white students met or surpassed the benchmarks in all areas except science. Many states have already taken steps to address deficiencies in college and career readiness.

Importance of Early Monitoring and Intervention

ACT research points to the importance of early monitoring and intervention to identify students who are at risk.

“Our research supports what many educators and parents have long suspected—that the best way to help our students prepare for successful futures is by monitoring their achievement, academic behaviors and goals starting early in their academic careers and providing appropriate help whenever we find they are not on track for success,” said Whitmore.

As a result, last month ACT announced plans to launch a new “next generation” assessment system covering early elementary grades through high school. The new system will be designed to provide students, parents and educators with information and insights on multiple measures of readiness to help ensure that students are on track for success starting early in their academic careers and continuing on through high school graduation.

“ACT is committing our resources and efforts to help improve college and career readiness,” said Whitmore. “We are working to create a roadmap to success for individuals from kindergarten through career, offering connected insights that help people master the skills they need throughout their lives. We’ll be revealing more details about our new direction and initiatives in the weeks ahead. ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012 lets parents, teachers and policymakers know where we stand today. ACT is committed to helping everyone understand where we can grow for College

Readiness in Math and Science Improving Slightly

The percentages of graduates who met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks nationally in mathematics and science each rose for the third straight year in 2012. Somewhat fewer than half (46 percent) of ACT-tested graduates achieved the benchmark in math, and nearly a third (31 percent) achieved the benchmark in science. Each of these figures has increased by 3 percentage points overall since 2008.

In contrast, college readiness levels in English and reading—although still higher than those in math and science—have been relatively flat over the past five years. Two-thirds (67 percent) of examinees in the class of 2012 met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in English, while just more than half (52 percent) met the benchmark in reading. Each of these levels is 1 percentage point lower than it was in 2008.

At the state level, 72 percent of students taking the test met college readiness levels in English, 58 percent in reading, 53 percent in math and 37 percent in science. English achievement has been flat since 2008, reading has declined slightly while math and science have improved two and three percentage points over the past four years.

“State-level initiatives related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—may well have helped move the needle in terms of students’ readiness in math and science,” said ACT Education President Jon Erickson. “That’s good news. But there is clearly more work to be done. Research into the impact of statewide STEM initiatives on student achievement could provide lessons for improving other areas of student learning. And, just as importantly, we need to ensure that every student and teacher has a powerful system that provides insights and direction to help guide students throughout the entire continuum of lifetime learning.”

The majority of states have funded initiatives designed to increase student interest, participation, and achievement in STEM fields, which are becoming increasingly important to the nation’s productivity and competitiveness.

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